The Local Book Launch

unnamedOn January 18th I held a launch party for the final book in the Earth’s Pendulum trilogy, The Dreamt Child. I think it was a success. You may decide if you agree with me when this is finished. No, no, you are not required to tell me where I messed up. It’s OK. Others already have. Just kidding.

As this was the third book, I have presumably learned a few things along the way. Now I’d like to share that vast wealth of knowledge with the rest of you. No, seriously I hope that this post will help some newbies get there more quickly than I did and possibly add some new thoughts for those who are on this same journey with me.

My first item of wisdom suggestion is that you need to begin planning for the big day long before the actual event. Marketing and promotion are often the things we hate and many of us tend to procrastinate about. Not a good idea in the case of book launch parties – or anything else for that matter.

About two months before the book was expected to be out I scouted out venues and booked the site. In my case it was a large hall in an old heritage school close to downtown.  I loved it as it even had a kitchen I could use, but that was by no means essential. I was lucky. Often the venue is a local bookstore and space may be limited.

With the hall and the date settled I turned my attention to promotion. I contacted my printer and, after a bit of back and forth with proofs and corrections, ordered 30 beautiful posters and 500 glossy bookmarks. Both had the covers of all my books on them, the details of the launch, links to where to find me online, and a short blurb about the current book. As soon as they arrived I began handing out bookmarks to everyone I had the courage to approach. That was the hardest part for me. I am great at promoting others, lousy at promoting myself. Sounds familiar, right?

There is a local coffee shop where I hang out a lot. They know me there. So, with much trepidation I approached the owner and asked if she would sponsor the event by providing coffee. To my relief she agreed quite readily. (I have spent a lot there so I shouldn’t have been so hesitant.)

I was very fortunate because a friend I had helped with a project insisted he would provide ‘International food’ that he would cook. That proved to be a bit of a logistics problem, as I had to emphasize that this was a book launch, not a charity dinner, and that people would be dropping in and not sitting down to a full meal. “Sample only,” became a litany I had to repeat. The language and cultural barriers didn’t help, but I did finally get through. Also, I insisted that he allow me to pay for the ingredients.

About two weeks before the launch I went all over town and asked businesses to put my poster up in prominent places. Most were accommodating, all except those that had a policy against outside promos, which were mostly the corporate chains.

I also got two local bookstores to agree to take my books on consignment, and one to buy them outright. Since I wanted to keep my price the same as at the launch, those did not make me any profit. I put it down to advertising costs.

Closer to the date, say in the last two weeks, I contacted the local paper, the local radio station, and the local TV station. All were accommodating. I had never been on TV before, but the interviewer was friendly and put me at ease (well, if you didn’t look at me squeezing my hands between my knees so they wouldn’t shake, lol). Have a look. It’s not so bad. The timing of these interviews and articles is important. Ideally they should be the week of the event,. More than a week before is too early and people lose track. In all of these, I let people know that I would do a reading from the book at 4:30.

I know that not all authors like to read, but I actually enjoy it so was comfortable doing that. I suppose my introversion is suspended for those minutes. I suggest that you only do this if you are comfortable with it. It is by no means necessary.

I also invited the press to come and take pictures at the event. Bold moves for me but, as I said, I’ve learned a thing or two. To my surprise the local radio station put the event on their newscast and also showed up for a pic to post on their Facebook page. The paper also came and took a pic, which they printed with a nice caption.

Then, in the days before the big event, I set to baking some goodies to have for the guests. I also enlisted some help. Two friends to serve food, so that we could control the amounts and not run out, and my daughter to keep track of the money and numbers of guests so I would be free to sign books and greet people.

On the day of the event it took very little time to set up the room with tables, chairs, tablecloths (paper) and get the food ready to go. The event was set to begin at 3 pm. At 2:30 we all looked at each other twiddling our thumbs and wondering why we were there so early.

Results? About 60 people showed up. I sold 46 books.  That was enough to cover the cost of the books and the food. I offered the entire trilogy at a discount for those who had not purchased the first two. That proved to be a good decision. About twenty guests stayed for the reading, which really surprised me. I met a new contact who told me about another place where I could possibly sell my books and extend my reach. (note to self – follow up on that lead).

I do want to stress that the food element is not necessary and possibly even advised. Had my friend not insisted I would have skipped that part but it worked well for me. I do think it attracted more visitors but doubt it affected the number of sales.

Last words. Preparation and planning are the keys. Be brave – bold even. And it gets better with each new book.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

42 thoughts on “The Local Book Launch”

  1. Fabulous job Yvonne, can I hire you? You really covered so much ground, and you seemed comfortable on the show as well. I love the way your books were set out along with the poster, nice, professional, and appealing. You go girl!

  2. Very good post and you did great in the interview. I couldn’t do this – I admire your courage to get in front of the camera. Congratulations on a great book launch and sharing your experience.

  3. I haven’t done one of these in person launches. I’m curious what you see as the long term gains. I mean, sure, you broke even on the cash costs by selling 46 books – but it still cost you a LOT of time, which is basically money.

    Did you do it for fun? Because you love doing these events, even if they effectively cost you money?

    Did you do it because you have a group of locals who really love your books, fans you’ve cultivated locally who you’re trying to go that extra mile for?

    Something else?

    There’s no wrong answers… I’m just wondering what yours were.

    1. Kevin – this is where I get most of my readers. I sell far more paper books by events like this and by word of mouth than all other ways combined. I do it because I want people to read my books. No, for the most part the work is NOT fun – although I do enjoy the actual event. I do have a few supportive friends and fans I could just sell to them individually. This is the way I get my name out there that works best for me.

      1. Gotcha. Cool. 🙂 So, is the 46 sales result high, low, typical…? I generally release and sell 50-100 books in pretty short order, all online, when I do a “big announcement” style push. And frankly, that’s because I am really bad at it and have a teenie-tiny email list (working on that!).

        Wondering if it’s worth trying to do something similar with local launches, alongside the online ones.

        Unfortunately, I’m in Boston. Makes it a little harder to get into radio and TV – too darned much happening here! 🙂

        1. I can’t back the stats up but have been told that average sales at an event, even for well know authors, is in the mid-thirties, so this was quite high. For me, it was worth the effort.

          It looks like you do well with your promos – better than I do, so you are not ‘bad’ at it. I suck at the on-line stuff.

          Are most of those sales e-books or paper? Care to share some tips – maybe as a post here?
          Yes, things are more difficult in the big city. You might want to hook up with a book store in your area instead of going it alone.

          1. Yes, there’s a local bookstore nearby…

            I guess “bad” is a relative term. I hang out (online, mostly) with people who routinely sell hundreds of copies of each new release on the first day.

            Most of my sales are ebook, although my last paper book sold fairly well for the first little while after I released it. But it still sold only 20 copies – I really tend not to do much business in print. My BEST print book has sold maybe 4 dozen copies, ever? And my best ebook sold over 3000. So I definitely do better in the ebook world.

            I could share some tips, but most of it is the same stuff we read all the time:

            1) Write a GREAT book.
            2) Produce the book well.
            3) Announce the book a couple of weeks ahead of launch (I do this poorly).
            4) Build your email list via social media and calls to action in the backs of your books. Give away books to get people into the email lists. Be creative, but build the list with your target readers (NOT random people!).
            5) Announce the availability of the new book to your list. List buys book, book bumps up in ranking, sells to new readers who see the CTA at the end and join the list…
            6) Go back to step one and repeat. Many, many times. 😉

            In fact, the more times you repeat the above steps, the better your odds of success.

  4. Wow, Yvonne, that sounds like it was a HUGE success. Great turnout and books sold. I am totally impressed. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing your MO:)

  5. That was great, Yvonne.
    Sigh. I’ve been dragging my feet–your article helped, thank you! I’ve done a few book signings, but with fellow local writers and a semi-private reading (turned out it was easier than I thought).
    I need to step out there and get some done on my own now…now that I’ve got a plan, thanks to you!
    I can do this…

  6. Yvonne, nice work.

    I have a IU post scheduled for the 19th that describes my book launches using an indie bookstore as a partner. Our two posts are complementary. You used traditional broadcast media–something I never considered.

    As for readings, I urge anyone doing a book launch to find their inner ham. Read. Tell stories about writing the book. Answer questions. A book launch is entertainment.

  7. Well done, Yvonne, I think you were well organised and, at least on the day, seem to have had a good time. The interview was excellent by the way; kudos for securing a TV interview by the way – local or not, that’s not an easy task.

  8. Nice job, Yvonne! I’m in the same boat as Kevin when it comes to getting publicity locally — it’s hard to get any media attention here in DC. But I’m thinking I need to start chatting up a local bookseller or two.

  9. Congratulations, Yvonne. You came over well on television. After ‘knowing’ you on IU and Facebook it was great to see the real you! How did your local launch compare with your online launch party for sales?
    I’ve done local launches and readings but I live in a small rural area where people know my name (I’m also a journalist) but don’t know how to tackle a big city launch, where no one has heard of me – including booksellers.

    1. Thank you, Mary. Sales were much better at the local launch but I met a lot of new, great folks at the on-line one so I was happy with that, too. Maybe I need to rethink my back cover blurbs.

    2. I think the key is to find an indie bookstore. I did one in Miami, big city, and it was a huge success. Not many indie authors featured at the store, but they have a huge author program for the big guys (they’ve had everyone from Bill Clinton to EL james). I befriended the owner and he gave me my shot. Now I’m invited back any time. One of the keys to success is their huge email list that they promoted the appearance.

  10. Yvonne, thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences. It sounds like you did a great job. I will definitely take some lessons from your post. Your marketing materials are fantastic too. Good job.

  11. A very interesting article, well written, with a wealth of information and I really like that you set down every step you went through to get to the launch. I know I could never do either the TV interview or read from my book; but I might know someone who could stand in for me [if I ever get to that point!].:) Again, congratulations on a wonderful launch!

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